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Authors: Victoria Rexroth

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BOOK: A Wonderful Life
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You ask me why I’m here…as if I really belonged anywhere else. Look around you, at these four walls. What do you see? Do you see the concrete walls and the cage door with the guard on the other side of it? Do you think that guard cares why I’m here? When he goes home late at night, do you think he greets his wife at the door and says: “That poor woman was given such a bum deal.” Of course not.  People like him don’t sympathize with people like me. When they sentenced me to life in this…place…do you think they really cared about what I thought? So, why should you now?

During the trial, they told me I was a list of achievements:

First woman to play on the baseball team.

First woman to graduate 2
in her high school class…even gave the Salutatorian speech and all.

Respected by her peers.

Hated by her competition.

They said there was nowhere this woman wasn’t going to go.

So why am I here? Why did this successful woman suddenly go nuts and kill without provocation…as they claimed during the trial?  I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me? All I know is what happened. And sometimes I wonder about that.


I married David because he, like me, was on the fast track to collecting the whole world on a silver platter. He was so kind to me, so romantic and even so chivalrous. I was sure you couldn’t do better than that. For six years, we had the happiest marriage on the planet.

But all good things weren’t meant to last now, were they?

It was after we had our son that he started to grow distant. I thought it was my overactive imagination. I mean, I’ve been wrong before, and I was sure this was what was happening again. Then I started to notice more and more phone calls coming in the middle of the night from people who would just hang up on me when I picked up the phone and David saying he couldn’t talk whenever he picked up the phone.  The first time I confronted him about this was the last time I confronted him.


Some woman called and said she was calling for David. From the sound of her voice, I could tell she wasn’t calling for business.   When I asked David about this, I didn’t get a denial or even an explanation. Instead, all I remember was the heat of his angered response and the first time his hand touched my face in a manner not resembling love.

The next fifteen years are a bit of a daze for me. Michael was only four years old, so I knew he needed a family, and leaving David would only have destroyed that.  I honestly believed things would get better if we just let time pass. Yes, the salutatorian of her school actually believed this. I guess once he realized he could get away with it, simple slaps changed to bruised hits and twice to broken limbs. Our bed wasn’t a welcoming place for either one of us, so he started coming home drunk more and more, and I stayed home and drank wine until our only communication was physical and in anger. Naively, I actually thought we were saving Michael from all of this by hiding it from him. He’s too smart a child to have ever missed what was really happening.

But each time he hit me, I vowed that one day I would have my vengeance. Sometimes I told him that as he would pin me down and just keep hitting. He would laugh at me and tell me how the police could never protect me as he was a big shot lawyer now and all I was was a simple,
housewife. One night, after a very bad fight over something as stupid as what we had for dinner, I remember cowering on the floor as he stood over me saying: “Mary, you worthless piece of shit. I work all day long while you’re here goofing off and watching Soap Operas. At least you can do is make me something decent to eat. Or is that too much to ask from a drunk bitch like you?”

Then he hit me one more time and went to sleep. I sat up all night, cowering on my side of the bed, realizing there was nothing I could do to stop this man from doing it all over again once he made up another reason.

Someone once told me I was as guilty as my husband because I never left. It’s so easy to point a finger at someone but much harder when you’ve lived that life. I’m from a small town. We don’t have women protection services here; well, at least not back then. My court appointed attorney even asked me why I went out of my way to upset my husband when most of what happened was probably my fault anyway. This was the guy defending me.

One year after Michael went off to college, I stayed sober for the first time in many years. David was sleeping off his usual allotment of beer in our bedroom when I grabbed a carving knife from the kitchen and went into the bedroom. 

I crept slowly across the room, expecting him to jump up at any time, knowing that once he was awake, I’d never have the courage or the ability to go through with it. He knew he was much stronger than me, and that’s probably why our fights ended up like they usually did, me injured and him going to bed satisfied. But he didn’t even move as I came over to his side of the bed.

For a long time, I stood over the bed with the knife raised in my fist, thinking about what I was about to do. I wasn’t drunk. I wasn’t confused. For the first time decades, I had never had such clarity of thought.

Then his eyes opened and he looked up at me with the knife in my hands. Right then and there, the bastard smiled. I might have expected a lot of reactions, including a fist in my face again, but not a smile. And I’ll never forget that voice of his at that moment: “Mary, even if you do it, it will never be over.” And then he started to laugh.

So I plunged the knife into his chest and he died laughing. But he did die.

So, you ask me why I’m here.  I’d like to tell you I’m here because no one believed my story. But that’s not the truth. I’m here because they did believe my story.

And I think that’s what scares them the most.




“I seen it! There I was just minding my own business, raking and hoeing, raking and hoeing just minding my own business when Uncle Jed comes up to me and says: “I thought you were supposed to be raking and hoeing.” And I said I was! I was just raking and hoeing, minding my own business when this huge light comes out of the sky and landed right over there in front of me, and these aliens get out with BIG green bug eyes and take away Uncle Jed, and I said….”


“I’m not just the Hair Club President. I’m also a client.”


“On today’s Springer: Men Who Steal Other Men’s Wives.”

I just stared at the television screen as anger grew within me. “Yeah, you’re one to talk about that now, aren’t you, Jerry?”

I can still remember how it all began, good ole’ Jerry standing on the stage, interviewing yet another oblivious individual: “You’ve been married for ten years now,” said Jerry. “Why don’t you give us a little background?”


She and I met in law school. I was studying environmental law; she was studying criminal. Our first conversation was an argument over judicial review and constitutional interpretation of the due process law under the 14
Amendment, and neither one of us would budge. Between you and me, I think she was right. I fell in love with her right then and there.

Jennifer used to love that show. I don’t know why. But I remember once sitting beside her as this poor sap started talking it up with Jerry: “Well, Jerry, we’ve been together since high school, so I’m pretty happy about this relationship.”

“Well, David, it sounds like you and Becky-Sue have a wonderful relationship together. Now, Becky-Sue, is there something you want to tell David?”

Becky-Sue: “Yes, Jerry, I’ve been seeing another man.”

And then I think it went something like this, although I can’t give an exact play by play. Jerry said: “Without further adieu, let’s bring out Becky-Sue’s other man, her new boyfriend Raymond, a professional wrestler better known as Deathstalker.”

I seem to remember lots of cheering from the audience and a very frightened guy who only seconds ago thought he had it all.


Jennifer and I had one of those fairy tale romances…at least it felt that way to me. We were married for ten years, and we didn’t seem to have any more problems than any other couple. We were talking about having kids, and that’s when it happened.


Dr. Jenkins: Robert, please sit down. I don’t know an easier way to say this, so I’m just going to come out and say it: Jennifer has breast cancer.

Robert: What exactly does that mean?

Dr. Jenkins: The culture came back positive. I sent in a second sample for verification, but it also came back positive.

Robert: I asked you a question: what exactly does that mean?

Dr. Jenkins: There’s more, Robert. I’m sorry, but it’s already spread to the lymph nodes. I have to be honest with you. It doesn’t look very good. I’ve seen some women bounce back after chemo and live long, productive lives. But once it’s hit the lymph nodes, anything can happen.

Robert: Does she know?

Dr. Jenkins: She suspects, but I thought you might want to be there when I tell her.


Dr. Jenkins was right. After Jennifer returned from chemotherapy in the hospital, she was weakened and didn’t seem very healthy. And then it just got worse. One chemo session after another, and they weren’t helping. We both knew it, but we never mentioned it.  She quit working and stayed home, staring at that TV. And it always seemed to be the same show, too, even though she would always change the channel if she noticed me in the room, knowing how much I hated that show.


“Okay, Vicky,” went the dialogue in another episode, “so you’ve been having an affair with Sandy who says that she really loves Marilyn and her gay lover Brooke. Doesn’t it bother you that
your husband of ten years has to stay home every night and take care of your four children?”

“Naw, Jerry, it doesn’t. Just cause I’m a married mother doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be able to have a little fun in my life.”


There were days when I’d hide in the other room and watch her sitting on the sofa, watching that show. It seemed to be the only time when she had any life to her. Other times, she’d just sit across from me at the table and eat silently, making a comment here or there, but it was like she had already died.  I tried to make her comfortable, to make her smile, to…to…to be there for her, but it was like I wasn’t even there.


Okay, I didn’t completely hate his show. I did like the interviews in the audience: “Okay, you over there, I’d like to say “suh”. And you: whatever, and you: ch, and you girl, the girl next to the guy in the dress, you girl are never going to learn to respect yourself until you learn to respect yourself. That’s all I got to say about that.”


After a couple of months Jennifer got really sick, and it was almost impossible to even get a word out from her. She would just sit there in silence and watch television, watching Jerry Springer and a bunch of low lifes who beat each other up on stage. I tried to talk to her, but it was like talking to a wall. One day that show was on, and I found myself staring at it in what had to be a morbid sense of fascination. I don’t remember the story, but people who hated each other were throwing chairs at each other, and the whole crowd was going crazy, as if it was the greatest thing they had ever seen. I was about to tell Jennifer to change the channel, knowing this couldn’t be healthy when I noticed that she was smiling. It was the only reaction I’d seen from her in weeks, and it was a smile. And then I realized it wasn’t me that made her smile; it was Jerry Springer. Jerry Springer and his violent show. And then I realized Jerry Springer stole my wife, and there was nothing I could do to win her back.


Jennifer passed away in the middle of the night. I found her in bed, the TV still on and called the paramedics. She didn’t make it to the hospital.

A couple of weeks went by and it just didn’t seem right. I’d come home from work, and I expected to see her there on the couch, watching TV, but there was no one there, and she was gone. It just didn’t seem right.

Our friends…my friends now, tell me that I was lucky to have had the chance to be with her right up to the end, but how do I make them understand that she was never with me up to the end, that she was more interested in some controversial talk show than in her own husband? How do you tell someone something like that without sounding like some…well, I don’t know, like someone I wouldn’t want to sound like?


I’m not a real TV watcher. Don’t usually have the time. But one evening before going to bed, I was flipping through the channels and I came across the Jerry Springer Show. Immediately, I was going to switch to something else, but for some reason I found myself entranced by what was on the screen. It was the usual faire: three or four people were yelling at each other, and then one man picked up a chair and threw it across the stage, hitting someone who was having an affair with his girlfriend, or something like that. Then he attacked, and this major fight ensued for a couple of seconds before a bunch of Jerry’s thugs broke it up. This is why I don’t like this show; it’s too violent.

But then I found myself just staring, and suddenly it all made sense. The guy who threw the chair made a statement about how he might never have had the chance to hit this guy if it wasn’t for Jerry’s show, and it all just made sense. I realized why Jennifer watched this show.

I mean, Jennifer was an attorney; she and I used to both laugh at shows like this, but it suddenly made sense. Watching Springer, she could see as people were able to physically fight back. That was something she could never do. That disease ate away at her, and there was no chair to throw at it or any confrontation that could put it all out in the open. No, it dug away at her in silence, and she had to take it. For an hour a day, she
could see people face down their enemies and in true trailer trash fashion, escalate it to physical violence.

It was something she could never do. Jerry Springer didn’t steal my wife; he gave her a reason to continue. He gave her what love and medical science never could.

I’m not even sure this makes sense.



BOOK: A Wonderful Life
3.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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